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The Code Zone Bargain Basement Blog

More Windows 8 Fun

Posted by , 30 November 2012 - - - - - - · 2,024 views

(hmm, for some reason the RSS importer from http://thecodezone.blogspot.com is borked, so I'm going the old fashioned way, with cut-n-paste)

Well at some point a couple of weeks ago the hard drive in my Main Development Box decided that booting to an OS was no longer necessary. And it chose to do so right in the middle of a deadline. So I hoofed it over to Frys to purchase a replacement drive and a copy of Windows 8. While the UI is controversial, I hadn't heard about any problems with Windows 7 apps, so I quickly installed Windows 8, my development tools, and my projects. And I was able to complete the project after a couple of very late nights.

Fast-forward a week and I finally have a chance to make Windows 8 operate the way I like. For me, Windows 8 reminds me of the last two MacOS updates in that there are some nice refinements hidden behind a treacly front-end that's designed for someone other than me. Windows 8 does have some very nice refinements that make it a better Windows 7, but that's all lost (literally) under the Metro UI.
But, much like MacOS, it's a simple to shun the stuff that annoys you and keep the stuff you like. And so here's my list of essential tools and tweaks that I found myself installing. And now that it's all installed, I'm hunky-dory with Windows again. Most of this stuff is free. If it's not, I mention it:

SharpKeys (http://sharpkeys.codeplex.com/) - A simple gizmo that sets registry entries to remap your keyboard. I remap the CAPS LOCK key to operate as a shift-key because the CAPS LOCK is a holdover from typewriters. And this thing just modifies the registry, so there's nothing to do once you're done remapping. Just remap and forget forever.

Free42 (http://thomasokken.com/free42/) - My brain thinks in RPN. The Windows calculator doesn't. The MacOS calculator does have RPN, so points to them.

MicroBin (http://www.e-sushi.net/microbin/) - Puts a tiny recycle bin in the tray so you don't have to hunt for it on the desktop whenever you wanna use the danged thing.

Win 7 Library Tool (http://www.pcworld.c...brary_tool.html) - The "Libraries" menu on the explorer sidebar is a terrific neglected feature. And for some reason Microsoft cripples it by applying some arbitrary rules as to what folders can live there. This gizmo gets around that so I can have related stuff all together. For example, I have a "cloud" library that points to my Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. so I don't have to hunt for those folders.

Cyberduck (http://cyberduck.ch/) - very nice little FTP client. There's an identical one on the Mac, and I give preference to apps that are identical on both platforms so I don't have to reconfigure my brain. Ditto for Free42.

Notepad++ (http://notepad-plus-plus.org/) - Is free. Is very fast. Is pretty-much the only text editor you need if you don't plan to mold your life around your text editor (i.e. VIM, EMACS)

ImageMagick (http://www.imagemagi...cript/index.php) - A pile of command-line tools to do stuff with image files. I use these quite a lot in my build scripts for resizing icons and such, so I install this right away.

PowerArchiver (http://www.powerarchiver.com/) - Not free, but it's the best one. While Windows' ZIP integration is pretty good, there are plenty of formats it still doesn't grok, like RAR. For those you need an archiver.

PromptPal (http://www.promptpal.com/) - Also not free, and there are plenty of free alternatives, but I have this registered so I keep it. Basically it's a command-prompt replacement that has some enhancements but most importantly keeps your command history persistent from launch to launch. So if you come up with a really hairy clever path-laden command line to do something, you don't lose it if you need it again. Why the default one doesn't do this, I'll never know.

Sizer (http://www.brianapps.net/sizer/) - Just discovered this a couple of months ago. It adds a sub-menu to your windows system menu (yep, there's still one there) that lets you resize a window to a particular size. This is just the thing if you need to capture screenshots of a particular size.

XNView (http://www.xnview.com/) - A perfect companion for Sizer, as it has plenty of options for screen-capture including "capture just the client area of a window", and it can snap to files without interaction, so you can just set your windows up and then play your game and snap away until you get enough screenshots.

VLC (http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html) - Yeah Windows 8. Good thinking. If I wanna play an MP3 file, I want it to take up the whole danged screen. Or maybe I just wanna play it in a little window and shove it out of the way.

Adobe Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/) - See VLC. Windows 8 comes with a PDF reader now, but it only runs full-screen. This reader (or any other, really) fixes that.

Classic Shell (http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/) - A dozen "get back your start menu" gizmos have appeared over the past weeks. This is the best one, mainly because it's been in existence long before Windows 8. It's very stable and is instantly familiar.

CPU Meter, Network Meter, and Drives Meter (http://addgadgets.com/) - Yeah Windows 8 killed Desktop Gadgets, but there are plenty of hacks to bring 'em back, including instructions on that page. I can't function well without these little guys sitting in the corner telling me the state of the Main Development Box.

CCleaner (http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner) - There are billions of "clean out useless files and crap" software out there. This one is excellent and is free.

Google Chrome (https://www.google.c...chrome/browser/) - IE10 is actually pretty good, but my brain's too used to Chrome to turn back now. Also all my bookmarks and saved passwords and such instantly sync up the moment I install it, and that's cool.

Chrome Remote Desktop (https://chrome.googl...kmpfmihenigjmpp) - The most dirt-simple and best performing remote desktop system I've ever used. Only drawback is that it currently only exists on desktop Chrome. Hopefully it's moving to mobile soon.

Disable Aero Shake (http://www.howtogeek...e-in-windows-7/) - Not an app per-se, but something I like to do. I like all the Aero stuff like snap and preview, but Aero Shake just seemed to be something that jumps up when I didn't wanna use it. So here are the registry values that shut it off.

Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, SkyDrive - Hey, I like clouds. Might as well use 'em to hold stuff for me. Dropbox is still the most mature, but the others are getting better.

Great freebie deal

Posted by , 25 September 2012 - - - - - - · 1,039 views

Oh but I have a good freebie that's coming up in a couple of days. I was going to post this as a gamedev.net front-page news item, but it appears that our news-feed is entirely scraped from other sources now (which is just fine with me), so I'm posting this as a blog item. Feel free to upvote it on that front page tab so everybody sees it.

Packt Publishing, one of the new "biggies" in technical publishing is announcing that they're publishing their 1000th book. And, in honor of that milestone, they're giving a "pleasant surprise gift" (their words not mine) to everyone who has an account on the site before 9/30.

(and I have permission to tell you that the gift is a free ebook of your choice)

So go to www.packtpub.com before 9/30 and sign up for a free account if you don't already have one. Their little ebook online store is top-notch and DRM-free, and they have PDF and EPUB versions of all their books, so you can view 'em on practically every computer or e-reader out there.

Also they have some free books on the site already, so you can check 'em out.

Changes to Mac versions

  Posted by , 06 March 2012 - - - - - - · 1,162 views

This is a long-needed change to the Mac versions of my games. In the past, my Mac games worked on both the old PowerPC-based Macs as well as the newer Intel ones. Well, now the PowerPC Macs have graduated from "old" to "ancient", and Apple has been gently nudging developers into working only with newer releases.

And that extends to the new Mac OS X "Lion", which drops backward-compatibility with PowerPC-based technologies entirely. So I have to look forward instead of backward, and I have now uploaded new Lion-compatible games. If your Mac has complained in the past about compatibility with my games, simply re-download your games and they should work without complaint.

As for PowerPC-based games, I will still keep them around but I will deal with them on a case-by-case basis. If you, for example, have an old PowerPC-based Mac and you need to re-download and/or re-install your game, you should contact support@thecodezone.com directly and I will get you your games.


The simple solutions sometimes

  Posted by , 10 February 2012 - - - - - - · 1,052 views

Tech support tip for independent game developers selling game downloads

Gmail is a GREAT tech support tool.

I've been selling downloadable games on my website since 2007. And in those years I've had plenty (and by plenty I mean hundreds) of emails to support@thecodezone.com from people who need help. 99% of the emails fall into two categories:

1. (<7 days from purchasing) I am having trouble downloading/unlocking/installing
2. (>7 days from purchasing) I bought a game quite some time ago and I switched computer/email/gender/whatever and I lost my original download instructions.

When I first built my little order/download system, I made sure to stuff every transaction I made into a MySQL table. I kept transaction numbers and emails and products purchased and all that stuff. And that way if anybody from category (2) above had a problem, I could look up their order.

And I have NEVER used that table.

It's still out there, full of everything I'd need to look up an order. But I don't use it because I have Gmail. When someone buys a game, the last step on my side is a little piece of PHP generates and sends and email to the them with instructions on how to download and install the game. And, just to be safe, I also sent that email to sales@thecodezone.com where it is quietly filtered and stuffed it into a Gmail folder.

And that's pretty-much my tech support. If anyone emails me saying "My name is Fredrick Fribble and I bought Bulldozer around two years ago", I can find their order by searching my gmail. Re-sending their download instructions is as easy as re-forwarding that old email back to them. There have been a couple of occasions where I had to go back and forth a couple of times because they ordered under a different name or changed email addresses or something, but I have always been able to find their order and send it back to 'em. Usually in a couple of minutes.

So I guess the suggestion here is not to overengineer things. I realize this wouldn't scale if your orders got into the huge numbers. But my orders do number in the thousands, and this little system is showing no signs of breaking down.


Books to review

Posted by , 08 February 2012 - - - - - - · 1,534 views

Okay, I just got a dozen requests for reviews from O'Reilly and Packt, so I thought I'd post the whole set here. If there's something you'd like to see reviewed, by all means tell me in a comment and I'll make sure it happens:

ActionScript Developer's Guide to PureMVC
Google Script: Enterprise Application Essentials
Introducing Starling
Mapping with Drupal
Node for Front-End Developers
Programming Google App Engine
The Little Book on CoffeeScript

XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example: Beginner's Guide -- Visual Basic Edition
Android 3.0 Animations: Beginner's Guide
Android NDK Beginner's Guide
Unreal Development Kit Game Programming with UnrealScript: Beginner's Guide
Cocos2d for iPhone 1 Game Development Cookbook